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hfffoman

Surrey
  • 75
  • reviews
  • 89
  • helpful votes
  • 269
  • ratings
  • My Own Dear Brother

  • By: Holly Müller
  • Narrated by: Lara J West
  • Length: 13 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 4
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars 4

Nineteen forty-four, Nazi-controlled Austria: For 13-year-old Ursula, life in her village remains almost as it was. But when Russian prisoners escape from the local concentration camp, her friend goes missing and her brother's allegiance to the Hitler Youth emerges in shocking ways, Ursula finds herself alone and surrounded by threat. Ursula is forced to recognise that danger comes not only from the enemy at the door but from the enemy within....

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Painful but full of humanity

  • By hfffoman on 20-06-18

Painful but full of humanity

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 20-06-18

Without spoilers this is a combination of two perspectives: coming of age in small town Austria, including the grotesque Krampus tradition; and the end of the second world war as experienced by country women and children. It is disturbing and at times painful to read but sensitively written and full of humanity. To those (Amazon reviewers) who thought it was too nasty, I would say this: the characters, and the behaviour described, are realistic; Krampus was like that. If you want a feel-good read, where the warmth of human nature is put on a plate and nicely chopped up for you like sausages, perhaps you would do better to choose a book about something other than wartime.

4.5 stars for the novel, but it was ruined by the narration. I have listened to 250-odd books on audible and this is probably the worst narrator. She turns every comma into a full stop and frequently puts a full stop just before a verb. The result is bizarre. I don't understand how she could have thought it made sense, nor how the publisher failed to deal with it. Better to get it in paperback

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • 14

  • By: Peter Clines
  • Narrated by: Ray Porter
  • Length: 12 hrs and 34 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,008
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,900
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 1,895

There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment. Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much. At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • A good one!

  • By Robyn on 23-11-16

Poor writing made worse by the narration

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
2 out of 5 stars
Story
1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 15-10-17

I rarely give one star to a novel but I am sorry to say this one deserves it. The slow buildup makes interesting reading for a while but you soon get the feeling the whole thing isn't going to make sense and the longer it goes on the more unconvincing it becomes. Even if you accept the premise (I won't reveal anything) which has some extremely strange and unexplained science, the logic doesn't work. As soon as you stop and think, you realize that the role of the caretaker and the building management company were just ludicrous and the whole story relied on that ludicrous premise, (as well as the ludicrous science).

To make it worse, the dialogue feels like Enid Blyton's famous five and unfortunately there is an awful lot of it. At times the characters act like witless children. Again without revealing anything, there is a scene involving a spear near the end which should have made any sensible publisher cough politely and recommend the delete key.

The narration is mixed. He does the different voices superbly. The rest of the reading is unpleasantly flat and nasal. But the whole experience is ruined by the awful way the speech is reported. It goes like this: "look out!" ......(pause).... SAID Tim. The inappropriate pause and the emphasis on the word "said" makes it sound like people learning to read out loud at primary school. It sounded as though someone had had the clever idea of recording "said Tim", "said Nate", "said Mandy" once for each character and grafted them into the recording every time they were needed. I winced every time I heard it, which made a huge amount of wincing.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • My Absolute Darling

  • By: Gabriel Tallent
  • Narrated by: Alex McKenna
  • Length: 15 hrs and 47 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 341
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 319
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 322

At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall; that chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it; that her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world. And he'll do whatever it takes to keep her with him. She doesn't know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see; why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done; and what her daddy will do when he finds out....

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • So grim

  • By Mrs. Caroline Bradshaw on 11-01-18

Disastrous choice of narrator

Overall
1 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 17-09-17

Would you try another book written by Gabriel Tallent or narrated by Alex McKenna?

BY the author, yes, by the narrator, no

Would you be willing to try another one of Alex McKenna’s performances?

Never

Any additional comments?

How on earth did they choose a narrator with a broken voice that sounds like two rusty pieces of metal scraping?

16 of 20 people found this review helpful

  • Great Masters: Beethoven - His Life and Music

  • By: Robert Greenberg, The Great Courses
  • Narrated by: Robert Greenberg
  • Length: 6 hrs and 5 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 19
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 15

Have you ever wondered how the lives of great composers-especially when set against the social, political, and cultural context of their world-influences their music?After listening to this perceptive series of eight lectures on the life and music of Ludwig van Beethoven, you will likely find that you hear his work in an entirely different way, your insight informed by new knowledge of how Beethoven was able to create masterpieces from the crises of his life.You'll learn about the years of progressive hearing loss-ultimately to produce total deafness-and the understandable agony and rage such a fate would bring upon a composer. About his deep depression over the end of his relationship with the woman he calls his Immortal Beloved. About his pathological hatred of authority, his persecution complex, even delusional behaviors.But you'll also learn how each of these crises, and many others, served to drive Beethoven inward, to reinvent himself and redeem his suffering through art, creating disruptive works of profound passion and beauty that reinvented the nature of musical expression in the Western world.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • The most annoying speaker I have ever heard

  • By hfffoman on 29-03-17

The most annoying speaker I have ever heard

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-03-17

Any additional comments?

I do not think I have ever listened to a speaker as annoying as this one. He talks like a clown, his entire manner is supercilious, he puts a ridiculous emphasis on unnecessary words and he throws in inappropriate jokes (I mean that not in the PC sense) that made me want to scream. I fear that the sound of him shouting "AND I QUOTE... ...UNQUOTE" will haunt me for many weeks.

The content is interesting. Of course, Beethoven's life was just so fascinating, I would put it in the category of things everyone ought to study. The material isn't novel. Any decent biography of Beethoven will give you the same stories and the same interpretation of them, probably in more depth - though a book won't give you the musical extracts.

My recommendation would be to read a book about Beethoven's life and then listen to the lectures by Jonathan Biss available free on coursera. They are incomparably superior to this buffoon.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Like Switch

  • An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over
  • By: Jack Schafer PhD, Ph.D. Marvin Karlins Ph.D.
  • Narrated by: George Newbern
  • Length: 7 hrs and 40 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 70
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 62
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 61

The Like Switch is packed with all the tools you need for turning strangers into friends, whether you are on a sales call, a first date, or a job interview. As a Special Agent for the FBI's National Security Division's Behavioral Analysis Program, Dr. Jack Schafer developed dynamic and breakthrough strategies for profiling terrorists and detecting deception. Now, Dr. Schafer has evolved his proven-on-the-battlefield tactics for the day-to-day, but no less critical battle of getting people to like you.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Standard psychology

  • By Lindsay Kay Caddy on 13-03-17

Only useful for the very young and the very naive

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 27-10-16

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I am not prejudiced against American accents but the tone of this narrator, while sounding ok in the test sample, grated on me so much, by the end I could barely listen.It is a fault with the book that it dresses up trite observations in a pseudo-scientific way as if presenting well defined laws of human nature only understood by a few experts. The narrator exacerbates this and must take a lot of responsibility for the annoying experience that results.

Any additional comments?

The advice in this book is not bad but little or none of it is new. It's just a rehash of standard body language and basic social skills training that has been around for decades. The FBI angle is amusing but doesn't add anything of substance. The chapter on the internet is of course not decades old but neither does it say anything beyond what is already well known to most internet users. Don't send angry emails until you've had a chance to cool down. Check your addressee list in case you made a mistake. Don't post naked pictures of yourself. Beware of people lying on social media. Good advice but only of value to the young and the naive.

Probably the most profound insight is the friendship formula: friendship = proximity + frequency + duration + intensity. But the examples he gives to validate it are dreadful. He cites a case where he supposedly helped a shy young man to make friends by telling him to go to a bar every evening, place a set of glass marbles on the counter and examine them with a magnifying glass. He claims this incited curiosity which led to the young man making friends. He had to go to the bar often and sit alone all evening in order to boost the proximity, frequency and duration elements of the equation.

The book is riddled with facile statements such as "Scientists have discovered that as we go about our daily lives our senses are constantly sending messages to our brain which in turn processes the information". And: If you cut someone's carotid artery, death will follow in minutes. One of the examples (the drunk passenger on a plane) is good but many of the stories and illustrations are so trite as to be laughable. There is so much simplistic advice dressed up as profundity, I found it almost unbearable.

It would be a good introduction for a socially undeveloped person aged about 10-14. (I mean that seriously).

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • The Garden of Evening Mists

  • By: Tan Twan Eng
  • Narrated by: Anna Bentinck
  • Length: 15 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 222
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 173
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 177

Malaya, 1949. After a career spent helping to prosecute Japanese war criminals, Yun Ling Teoh, - herself the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp - seeks solace among the jungle fringed plantations of Northern Malaya. There she meets the enigmatic Aritomo, an exiled former gardener of the Emperor of Japan. Yun Ling asks Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister. But the jungle holds secrets of its own…

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The best listen of 2012

  • By Sarah on 02-12-12

Truly special

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 24-10-16

Any additional comments?

Not more than once a decade I read a novel that gives me so much pleasure and admiration that it stands out as a pinnacle on the landscape of life's experiences. This is one such book.

I will say little about the story as I want everyone to approach it fresh. It is about memory and forgetting, impermanence and loss, pain and mental strength, suffering and the burden of suffering, art and nature. It is sad and uplifting on every page. It inspires admiration both for the characters and for the aspects of eastern culture it describes. It delves into humanity, dealing with serious issues sensitively and profoundly and resisting, with the assured touch of a master of literature, every opportunity for cheap drama or trite sentiment.

The reading is sensitive and nicely phrased though unfortunately she can't do a South African accent.

I put some extended quotes in my amazon.co.uk review

  • Gateway

  • By: Frederik Pohl
  • Narrated by: Oliver Wyman, Robert J. Sawyer
  • Length: 8 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 153
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 124
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 122

When prospector Bob Broadhead went out to Gateway on the Heechee spacecraft, he decided he would know which was the right mission to make him his fortune. Three missions later, now famous and permanently rich, Robinette Broadhead has to face what happened to him and what he is...in a journey into himself as perilous and even more horrifying than the nightmare trip through the interstellar void that he drove himself to take!

  • 1 out of 5 stars
  • Great book, shame it's not genuinely unabridged

  • By Mark Pack on 27-04-11

Good story, horrible narration

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
1 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-09-16

How could the performance have been better?

When I listened to the sample I thought it was ok but after a couple of hours of that horrible cracked rasping voice I couldn't stand it. Now, having finished it, just thinking about it sets my teeth on edge. Not only an awful voice but the dialogue is awful too.

If this book were a film would you go see it?

Definitely

Any additional comments?

Despite the age it's hardly dated and still well worth reading. It is a good story, realistically conceived with interesting perspectives on mankind presented subtly without ever preaching or trying to impress.It alternates two stories both told in the first person by the protagonist, Bob. One is the story of his life as he sought to make his fortune. The other is his psychotherapy as he attempts to recover after those events. The AI psychotherapist has been described as one of science fiction's greatest character creations. I disagree. Having lived with a practising psychoanalyst for many years, I didn't find the sessions remotely realistic, nor was there a single Aha! moment or a conversation that made me stop and think about the implications of AI personality. The issues raised in Beckett's Genesis, for example, are much more thought provoking. Still it's an enjoyable story.

  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

  • By: Susanna Clarke
  • Narrated by: Simon Prebble
  • Length: 32 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 3,480
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,141
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 2,141

Winner of the British Book Awards, Newcomer of the Year, 2005.

English magicians were once the wonder of the known world, with fairy servants at their beck and call; they could command winds, mountains, and woods. But by the early 1800s they have long since lost the ability to perform magic. They can only write long, dull papers about it, while fairy servants are nothing but a fading memory.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Harry Potter for Grown Ups

  • By Cosima on 18-11-10

Extreme good and bad points

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-06-16

Would you try another book written by Susanna Clarke or narrated by Simon Prebble?

I hope her next novel is successful and finds a more suitable expression of her talent. Although this novel disappointed me, I may well read her next and wish her well with it. She undoubtedly has talent.

What about Simon Prebble’s performance did you like?

Sensitively phrased, no voice acting

Any additional comments?

This curious and very long novel offers extremes of good and bad. Unfortunately though I continued to the end, by the time I got there, I regretted the time I had spent. The bad outweighed the good.

On the good side: the writing style is delightful. I give some quotes at the end of this review so you can decide if you like it. The concept is unusual and imaginative. There is a cleverness to the story that makes it feel like a social satire, a metaphor perhaps, though I couldn't determine what it was a metaphor or satire of: politics, religion, academics, hypocrisy in general?

Now the problems. Many reviewers found the story too long or too slow or both. That isn't a problem in itself. I often enjoy long slow-moving novels. But somehow this one just didn't engage me. I never cared much for the characters or what happened to them.

There is a serious problem with the magic. There is no system, no logic to it. We never have any idea what it takes to do magic. Why is a lot of studying required, does it require energy or strength, what are the constraints or limits? The use of magic appears to be quite random and inconsistent. This makes the contests between magic powers meaningless and ultimately uninteresting. I have never read a book with this failing before and I wouldn't have imagined it would matter much, but it does and indeed it is part of the explanation why the story fails to engage.

Here are the promised quotes. There are no spoilers.

"The shop door opened and a young man entered. He was small in stature and slight in build. his feature were regular and, truth to tell, he would have been quite handsome had it not been for his unfortunate manner. He was one of those people whose ideas are too lively to be confined in their brains and spill out into the world to the consternation of passers by."

"A little way off a fairy woman was regarding him steadily. She was dressed in a gown the colour of a winter sunset and carried a delicate glittering fan strung with something that might have been crystal beads but which more resembled frost upon leaves and the fragile pendants of ice that hang from twigs."

"In the fish market by the grand canal, a fisherman sold Frank three mullet but then almost neglected to take the money because his attention was given to the argument he was conducting with his neighbour as to whether the English magician had gone mad because he was a magician or because he was English."

"I myself was touched with something of the same melancholia when I was in the Swiss mountains in September. I wandered about hearing avalanches every five minutes as if God was bent on my destruction. I was full of regrets and immortal longings. Several times I was sorely tempted to blow my brains out and I would have done it too but for the recollection of the pleasure it would give my mother in law."

"Aunt Greysteel was very pleased with her bargain but it sometimes happens that when one acts quickly and with great resolve all the indecisiveness and doubt comes afterwards when it is too late."

"Another stroke of lightning gave it an unnatural aspect. The walls became white and ghastly, the furniture and other objects became grey, as if they had all been turned to stone. With a horrible jolt, Aunt Greysteel realised that there was indeed a second person in the room, a woman but not Flora, a woman in a dark old-fashioned gown standing with a candle in a candlestick looking at her, a woman whose face was entirely in shadow, whose features could not be seen. Aunt Greysteel grew cold all over. There was a crack of thunder, then pitch black darkness except for the two candle flames but somehow the unknown woman's candle seemed to illuminate nothing at all. Queerer still, the room seemed to have grown larger in some mysterious way."

"This was the first thing that Mr Norrell had said which seemed in any way to mollify the Prime Minister. He inclined his head slightly. "But if it is not your doing, whose is it?" This question seemed to strike at some particularly vulnerable spot in Mr Norrell's soul. He stood, eyes staring, mouth opening and closing, entirely unable to answer. Lascelles, however, was in complete command of himself. He had not the least idea in the world whose magic it was, nor did he care, but he did know precisely what answer would serve his and Mr Norrell's interest best. "Frankly, I am surprised that your Lordship need put the question", he said coolly. Surely the wickedness of the magic proclaims its author.""

"Spring returned to England. Birds followed ploughs, stones were warmed by the sun. Rains and winds grew softer and were fragranced with the sense of earth and growing things. Woods were tinged with a colour so soft, so subtle that it could scarcely be said to be a colour at all. It was more the idea of a colour, as if the trees were dreaming green dreams or thinking green thoughts."

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • The Hot Kid

  • By: Elmore Leonard
  • Narrated by: Arliss Howard
  • Length: 8 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 13
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars 12
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 12

Set in Oklahoma during the 1930s, The Hot Kid is a powerfully entertaining story and introduces Carl Webster, one of the coolest lawmen ever to draw on a fugitive felon. At 21, Carl Webster's on his way to becoming the most famous Deputy US Marshal in America. He has shot and killed notorious bank robber Emmet Long and is now tracking Jack Belmont, the no-good son of an oil millionaire with dreams of becoming Public Enemy Number One.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • The first rule of writing

  • By Barbara on 24-12-17

A great listen

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-02-16

Where does The Hot Kid rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

It isn't in my top ten but it is very entertaining, well written and well read.

What does Arliss Howard bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Superb reading. He made me feel like I really knew those people.

Any additional comments?

The Hot Kid won't win any literary prizes but it is a thoroughly entertaining read with some superb shooting scenes, delightfully nasty gangsters and some of the sharpest "gun molls" I have encountered. It moves with a fantastic pace. There is some description but never a wasted word. Every short gritty sentence grabs you. By the end I felt as though I really knew what it felt like to be living in the world of bankrobbers in the twenties and early thirties.

Don't read it if you are remotely sensitive about woman being treated as objects. The crude way the characters, and the narrator for that matter, talk about their bodies, is shocking or funny depending on your point of view.

  • Theft of the Master

  • By: Edwin Alexander
  • Narrated by: Alex Jennings
  • Length: 10 hrs and 22 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars 1
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 1
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars 1

This is the story of an ancient religious icon pilfered at the end of WWII and its consequences for a family and a nation. Theft of the Master aims to appeal to the listener seeking more from a novel than a good listen. It weaves an intricate web, speckled with an assortment of finely described characters spanning different historical periods and continents. Theft of the Master has all the ingredients of a top-class thriller.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • First rate reading, second rate writing

  • By hfffoman on 29-11-15

First rate reading, second rate writing

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 29-11-15

Would you try another book written by Edwin Alexander or narrated by Alex Jennings?

I chose this book solely because I like Alex Jennings's reading. I would not read another by the author

What does Alex Jennings bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He has a very pleasant voice, the expression is good without going over the top, and the dialogue is varied and convincing.

Any additional comments?

This is crime thriller set in four countries, featuring a bit of art, a lot of murder and scene changes across four countries. The main character is Al Hershey, a private investigator with a military past and a cynicism resembling that of many other private investigators in novels and films.

The story is passably interesting for a light read. The writing is decidedly second rate, with none of the characters brought to life except Hershey who doesn't extend beyond two dimensions. The dialogue at times feels juvenile and unconvincing with naive comments and unnecessary explanations. If it was pitched as a teenage crime novel I would have given it 4-5 stars.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful